Photo courtesy of NetFit Netball
Setting yourself up for life after sport is a daunting experience. Many athletes wouldn’t know what they want to be, let alone where to begin. During my netball career I’ve been told “you don’t have time… it’s a short career, focus on your sport…the time will come”. I didn’t want to wait, I needed to be on the front foot. That is when I met Justine Whipper from Cricket NSW. She looked me in the face and told me I can do it. That’s all I needed to hear.
It wasn’t until the niggling injuries began that I started thinking about what’s in store for me after netball finishes. Playing for the rest of my life is on the bucket list but I know that’s not possible. Stress reactions in the foot led to me wearing a boot during the week, not practicing and then playing a game on the weekend. It destroyed me both mentally and physically. It wasn’t fair on my body and it also wasn’t fair on my team mates.
At the time there was no pressure from physio’s or coaches to take some time off and get the foot right. There was no one telling me to stop. As an athlete all you want to do is continue playing, through any type of pain, to help your team get the win. I continued to not train and play on weekends throughout the whole season. From this experience it took 3 years to get my foot right again. It also added a whole lot of pressure on my other leg. The frustration of trying to work out what was wrong with my foot, led to not being guaranteed a contract the following year. It got me thinking that yes, I can play netball at the elite level but what did I have off the court?
There was a problem. Throughout my youth I never knew what I wanted to do. I’d never really thought about it to be honest. I was never one of those girls who knew what my wedding was going to look like or the guy I wanted to date. I lived in the moment. This is probably the reason why it took me so long to understand what it was that I wanted to do. Most athletes fall in to a Sports Science degree and that’s where I started. I hated it. I was bored so I scrapped it. There was a shining light that came out of it though.
Sociology. Why are people different? This appealed to me. As a leader of a team I’m dealing with different personalities daily. If I could have a greater understanding of my teammates, I could help make us a better team both on and off the court.
Mentoring is something I thrive upon. I love interaction. The understanding of why athletes do the things they do.
A career advisor who was involved with our team sat with me one day. I told her what I wanted to do. I took the quiz that is meant to lead you down the correct path. The results came back with Psychology along with Counselling a close second. Options were now what I was after. Instead of telling me how to attack, I was told that there was not enough time in my schedule for this. Australian team, full time contracted athlete and a coaching business on the side, where are you going to find the time?
This hit me for six. Maybe I don’t have time for this. I’m not going to get through a university degree. I began to question myself. It’s so easy as an athlete to not do it. So when someone says there’s no time, you doubt yourself instantly. If someone told me I couldn’t do something on the netball court, I’d prove to myself I could. However, in a world outside of sport, which I had no experience in, those words were a fall back to stall my life after sport.
A year or two later I was introduced by my husband (who plays Cricket) to Justine Whipper, from Cricket NSW. After a brief phone conversation, I met with her to discuss my future. Immediately I felt it was just going to be another person telling me there’s no time for this in your life. I went in all guns blazing hoping for it to be a different experience.
Justine sat me down, plonked a big folder in front of me with every single university course that had psych or counselling in it, looked me in the face and said “This is the course I think you can do.” She laid out all the reasons why and said I could be enrolled in the next 3 months. All I could think of was this lady who I’d just met, backing me, telling me I can do it.
Not everyone needs what I need, but I needed someone to back me in that space. To have someone tell me that you can do this, that you’re smart enough and that you have the time was really important to me. The thing that hit home was Justine saying “you’ll put in the effort if you love it enough and it feels like you do.”
That was the turning point for me.
I’m currently studying a Counselling degree, slowly but surely I’ll get to the end.
While studying I began to wonder how many other people in netball are feeling the same way. There’s no person in Netball like Justine who the girls can reach out to. One of my goals was to improve this area in our organisation. I had a meeting with the CEO of Netball NSW and filled her in on my story and how I had to go through Cricket NSW for answers. “How do I be that person?” I asked her. I want to be in that Welfare space. I stressed the importance and was told to go home and write up a job description and how it will work.
A job description, how on earth do I write one of those? I had to though. I’d gone and hassled the CEO for goodness sake. I can do this! One of my great mates, Bec Trbojevich, was a saviour and shone some extra light on how I can make this fit. It’ll be completely new for the sport and a constant learning experience.
In its early stages there was a conflict of interest working with my team mates but I was fortunate enough to be able to work with the younger girls in the feeder programs. This was a great experience. I learnt so much from my youth and was able to share it with these 17 to 19-year-old girls going to Nationals for the first time at the same time as sitting their HSC. I’d spent months at Netball NSW before being lured to the GWS Giants.
It was in a meeting, that I’d rushed from training to attend sweaty and smelly, that I was asked to be the Player Development Manager for the Women’s AFL team. I took the role and finished my time at Netball NSW. The role was time consuming, but rewarding. I’ve loved every second of it. It’s great being able to support the well-being of other athletes but at the same time, I’m practicing what I preach and making sure I’m looking after my own.
🌻 Lover of Life 🏐 GIANTS Netballer #1 🇦🇺 Australian Netball Diamond 🌴 Co-Owner of @netfittours & MY NETFIT